With its many benefits, we believe flexible working should be the norm – not the exception – for workers, and central to the creation of inclusive and productive workplaces. Since the global pandemic, flexible working remains as relevant as ever for both employers and policy-makers.
More action is needed to increase the uptake of a range of flexible working arrangements to create more inclusive, diverse and productive workplaces that suit both the needs of organisations and individuals.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has driven an increase in working from home and hybrid working opportunities, we would like to see a similar increase in the provision and uptake of other types of flexible working such as flexible start and finish times, compressed hours and job-shares.
It’s important to recognise that hybrid working has inclusion and wellbeing advantages for employees and can help attract and retain people who otherwise might struggle to hold down employment. However, for the vast number of employees( 60%)* whose roles require them to be in the physical workspace, working from home and hybrid working is simply not an option.
That’s why at the CIPD, we have always championed a broad range of flexible working options to suit a wide range of jobs across sectors and industries and to suit different people. There is no one size fits all and organisations need to pilot and try out different ways of working to see what best suits the needs of their context and people. Not everyone will be able to benefit from the same type of flexibility but it is important to have parity of opportunity across roles.
The CIPD’s view is that flexible working practices should be the norm - not the exception - for all workers. With that in mind, for the last couple of years, we have campaigned through our #FlexFrom1st work to make the right to request flexible working a day one right rather than after 26 weeks of employment in the UK. The rationale behind that has been to broaden out opportunities and fairness for all employees and we are delighted that the UK Government has announced it intends to bring forward secondary legislation to do just that.
Two fifths of UK employers believe the right to request flexible working legislation has been effective in increasing the uptake of flexible working in their organisation; making it a day-one right should further bolster its effectiveness by increasing access and uptake more widely.
The CIPD Good Work Index points to a number of barriers to be overcome:
- Line manager attitudes
- Lack of senior-level support
- Concerns about meeting operational and customer requirements
- The nature of the work people do.
The CIPD is supporting the people profession to use its unique position to break these barriers and promote and support a much wider uptake of flexible working practices. We ran over 20 events across our UK branch networks, highlighted successful guidance and case studies, and are also involved in UK initiatives to support flexible working. This includes:
- Co-chairing the UK Government’s Flexible Working Taskforce, publishing research and guidance on enabling flexible working, and creating practical tools for line managers to bring about change
- Our Steps Ahead Mentoring programme, supporting jobseekers who find it hard to access the labour market due to the lack of flexible working
- Contributing to a Hybrid Working Commission aimed at making recommendations on how Government can respond to the rise in hybrid and remote working to the advantage of people, communities, and UK plc.
Actions for the UK Government
- Continue to support the Flexible Working Taskforce and its remit to increase access to – and uptake of – different forms of flexible working.
- Provide guidance and support to organisations on the forthcoming legislation change around making the right to request flexible working from day one.
- Work with organisations (such as the CIPD) on myth-busting around flexible working to dispel the notion that it cannot work for certain employees or job roles that traditionally are not considered flexible.
- Develop a challenge fund for businesses in frontline sectors to trial and track progress around flexible ways of working and the impact on business and employee metrics.
- Lead by example by ensuring that the civil service becomes an exemplar of flexible working, and by encouraging the wider public sector to create more flexible jobs.
Recommendations for employers
- Implement internal policies that allow your employees to request flexible working from day one of employment.
- Use the tagline ‘happy to talk flexible working’ in job adverts, attracting more candidates who are looking for flexible roles.
- Raise awareness of different forms of flexible working, such as compressed hours and job sharing, and explore how they can be effective in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible.
- Develop mutual trust between line managers/senior management and employees in flexible working arrangements. Support these arrangements with appropriate people management systems and processes.
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